Westtown >> Villa Maria, in the PIAA Class 2A girls’ lacrosse semifinals for the first time ever, proved to be a poised performer, advancing to the state final with a 14-8 triumph over Radnor Tuesday afternoon at West Chester Rustin High School.
The Hurricanes defeated a Radnor squad making its fourth straight appearance in the state semifinals. Villa Maria held a 7-5 halftime advantage, then methodically built on its lead in the second half. At the final buzzer, the Hurricanes stormed the field.
“I am just so happy, this is just a great experience,” said Villa Maria freshman Margie Carden, who scored four first-half goals. “Every single [post-season] game I’ve been happy that we’re going on to the next game, and I’m just so happy we’re here right now.”
“We’ve been working so hard all season, and to see it paying off today, just feels so good,” said Villa Maria junior midfielder Abby Walheim. “The key today was definitely our defense. Even though we won the draw a lot of the time in the second half, we knew we had to be aggressive and win those 50-50 balls.”
— Main Line Sports (@MLineSports) June 5, 2018
Walheim did it all – scoring a hat trick, dishing out three assists, winning six draw controls and causing three Radnor turnovers.
“Abby is such a team player, she’s speedy and so aggressive everywhere,” said Villa Maria head coach Allie Sweeney. “I think in the post-season, she’s become more aggressive across the whole field, defensively, in transition, riding. And she’s been dominant on the draws, with her height and her extension.”
With the victory, Villa Maria (22-2) advances to its first-ever PIAA 2A state championship final, where the Hurricanes will face Kennard Dale, the fourth-place finisher from District 3, Saturday at 10 a.m. at West Chester East High School’s Harold Zimmerman Stadium.
Tuesday, when the Hurricanes encountered Radnor, the Hurricanes faced a persistent foe, as the Raiders stayed within striking distance of Villa Maria for most of the game. Radnor took a 1-0 lead 3:38 into the contest on sophomore attack Ellie Mueller’s goal with an assist from junior attack Cate Cox.
Following a trio of goals in a three-minute span by Walheim, Hannah Young and Carden, Radnor played a patient passing game, controlling the ball for a couple of minutes before freshman attack Tori DiCarlo fired home a goal to make it 3-2. The Cox-to-Mueller combination came through two minutes later to tie the score at 3-3.
With 8 1/2 minutes to go before halftime, Carden turned red-hot, unleashing a trio of goals in three minutes to put the Hurricanes ahead 6-3. Her second goal was on the heels of a Walheim-won draw control, and her final score was in the face of heavy defensive pressure.
“Margie was amazing today, she was really feeling it – I think some days you wake up and you just know that it’s going to be your game,” said Sweeney. “Our attackers kept giving her the ball, because they knew she kept scoring and was getting herself those opportunities.”
Carden said, “Once you score a couple of goals it’s easy to keep your [personal] momentum up. When I scored a couple of goals, I just kept on going, and I knew I had my teammates to back me up.”
— Main Line Sports (@MLineSports) June 5, 2018
With the Raiders trailing 7-3 three minutes before halftime, Radnor came back again on the strength of two goals from Mueller, the second one assisted by Cox with 30.6 seconds before halftime. Cox had three first-half assists, and Mueller finished the game with six goals to lead both teams in scoring.
Two minutes into the second half, Radnor sophomore attack Molly May fed Mueller for another score to make it 7-6.
The Hurricanes’ vaunted defense then rose up, allowing Radnor only one goal in the next 22 minutes.
“Our defense has been a rock this season,” said Sweeney. “It’s been so solid, our players switch so nicely, and we know that [goalie] Maddie Medve is going to get her 10, 11, 12 saves a game.”
Down the stretch, Medve made a number of key saves, finishing with nine. Sweeney also praised the defensive work of midfielder Adele Iacobucci (who caused a Radnor turnover and won five draw controls), junior Kristy Kucia (who transferred from Archbishop Carroll after playing a solid role in the Patriots’ state title as a sophomore) and Maggie Powers.
“Adele is so feisty, and can get any ground ball that’s within any stick length of her, or that’s a short sprint away,” said Sweeney. “She’s so quick out there, and so competitive, I use her off the bench because I know she’ll be ready to go every time. She’s willing to play anywhere we put her and I know she’s going to create big plays and make big things happen.
“KK [Kucia] uses her size to her advantage, won’t let anyone push her around and is such a loud force down there, she’s a leader.”
While Villa Maria was holding Radnor to one goal in 22 minutes (a Julia Rigolizzo score assisted by Cox), the Hurricanes gradually built onto their lead. Walheim and Erin Finley each scored twice, and after Bridget Finley, Sarah Delaney and Paige DeMutis each tallied single goals, the Hurricanes had a 14-7 lead with 7:00 left to play.
Seven different Hurricanes scored goals, and nine of Villa Maria’s goals were assisted (Young and Lizzy Walheim each dished out two).
Radnor head coach Brooke Fritz said, “We’re a young team, and after the game I talked to the team about the importance of playing together and showing more emotion out there. A lot of our players are underclassmen, and some of them are not really ready yet to speak up and direct traffic in close games. Our seniors, Cat [Belveal] and Carleigh [Goldstein] and Katie [Pelton] did a good job of leadership, we just need more players like that. I attribute our turnovers today to youth, not [lack of] talent. We didn’t quite play as a unit today.
“Overall, I felt like we overachieved this season. We were very young and often had 2-3 freshmen on the field. Our underclassmen are fun, positive, good kids. We had an awesome season, but Villa Maria did a good job today.”
Villa Maria Academy 14, Radnor 8
Radnor 5 3 – 8
Villa Maria 7 7 – 14
Radnor goals: Mueller 6, DiCarlo, Rigolizzo.
Villa Maria goals: Carden 4, Young 2, A. Walheim 3, E. Finley 2, B. Finley, Delaney, DeMutis.
Goalie saves: Proctor (RA) 5, Medve (VMA) 9.